I first became aware of the significance of the different shapes our facial expressions can take on whilst watching Princess Diana’s famous TV interview all those years ago. I can still picture her appealing eyes looking beseechingly at the camera, and the half-open mouth, with its equally appealing look, as though saying, “Please give me something”. The look in the eyes and the demanding pout of the mouth have remained for me since then as symbols for what a needy Earth element will demand of others. And I see both eyes and mouth as giving the impression of something round, confirming for me that there is always something circular about Earth’s actions. Its speech, too, tends to go round and round a topic, as though enclosing it in a ring of words. I have therefore come to visualize Earth’s outline in all its manifestations, both physical and emotional, as creating a circle around itself, in the centre of which it tries to nestle “as snug as a bug in a rug”, as the saying goes. Its body shape, too, often gives an impression of comfortably roundness, with yielding flesh, giving me the sense that I am somehow being enclosed within soft arms, as a mother encloses her child. Earth is, after all, the mother element, and can never discard this role.
This has led me to compare Earth’s outlines with those of
the other elements. When I think of Wood,
I immediately have a picture of straight lines, to contrast with Earth’s
rounded contours. Wood seems to me to move
directly towards its goal, physically and in its speech. Its body has firm contours, with none of
Earth’s softness of flesh. I feel that
whenever I touch a Wood person, I would tend to feel firm, hard flesh, which
does not yield to the touch as Earth’s does.
Its words, too, are direct and to the point, and come straight at me, pinning
me down with their force. In all that it
does Wood offers clear boundaries. I have
no doubt where it is, unlike one or two of the other elements, particularly, as
we will see later, Water.
Fire in nature burns strongly and at the same time
flickers. To me its outline, reflecting
this, is more fluid than Wood’s, whilst it still has much of the directness and
strength associated with being the most yang of all the elements. I know where Fire is, as I do with Wood, our
two yang elements, and see it as having strong contours. Its speech is less forthright and can be more
hesitant than Wood’s, but I see the element as a whole still moving in a
straight line towards me, unlike that of its child, Earth.
By the time we reach Metal, in autumn, when yin now firmly
takes control, although it has firm outlines, somehow I feel that I cannot grasp
it in quite the same way as I can the other three elements I have discussed. Metal eludes me, slips past me, does not want
to be tied down by me. It tends to walk
very lightly, almost as though floating a little, with quiet steps. We do not hear its feet firmly hitting the
ground as we do Wood’s, or walking briskly as we do Fire’s, nor do we think of
its feet as somehow embracing the ground, almost unwilling to let go of their
contact with what is beneath them, as we often do with Earth’s. I always remember a Metal patient telling me
that he felt he could “go up in a puff of smoke”, and somehow this slightly
ethereal feeling is there in everything Metal does, including its movements.
Finally, as always, we reach the most potentially hidden element
of them all, Water, where, even more than in the case of Metal, I feel that my
grasp on it is the weakest of all the elements.
It seems to slip through my fingers, so that I cannot really catch
it. For me it has the most ephemeral and
fluid outline of all the elements. I
often know that I am in the presence of Water when I find myself puzzled, as
though on uncertain ground, and unsure of myself, as though if I turned
suddenly it will no longer be there, will have disappeared, hidden itself